I haven’t eaten at a fast food chain in a very very long time. My only exceptions are the intermittent ventures to local joints (P. Terry’s burgers, Tom’s Tabooley for falafel, Thundercloud’s veggie sandwich with hummus). And I only reluctantly consider fast food when I’m on the road traveling.
I’m a vegetarian.
I try to eat healthy.
I watched Supersize Me.
I don’t really view it as ‘convenient’ anymore. (Because I dislike driving, and sometimes I’m lazier to get up and actually go somewhere.)
It’s greener because you can choose which ingredients you buy, and you don’t travel anywhere to eat it, and there’s no take-out packaging involved.
But what about those times when there’s no TIME to cook?
I hear you. There are days when I am too tired, too lazy, or in too much of a rush to put together a square meal. But I still try to eat as best I can. It helps if there’s less junk food in the house to begin with (note to self the next time I reach for a bag of chips or cookies at the market). Here’s a brainstorm of things that I do to help make homemade meals happen, even if I’m feeling uninspired, lazy, or out of time:
Plan ahead, overcook, ’nuff said. I love leftovers!
The incredible edible egg to the rescue.
Scrambled or fried egg whites + bread or rice.
Add beans, cheese, tomatoes, frozen veggies, etc. for a great meal.
Are easy to make at home. If you know your week is going to be busy, stock up on sandwich food: fresh bread, tomatoes, bell peppers, olives, sliced cheese, deli meats, marinated tofu slices, greens, sprouts,…whatever floats your sandwich boat.
Same as above. Microwaving a quick veggie patty and adding it onto fresh bread with a slice of tomato, cheese, spinach, and mushrooms is quicker and healthier than finding the nearest drive-thru. It’s one of my favorite on-the-run and balanced meals. (New questions about the health of too many processed soy products, so I’m weaning myself off frozen soy meat substitutes…but not completely yet.)
For those times when there is not a sprig of spinach or nary a tomato to be found in your crisper. I’m not saying eat this every day (also unhealthy in its own way), but it’s always an option. Also, PB and honey. Or PB and honey and bananas. Or PB and granola.
Rice cooker is my friend. Make a big pot, and you’ll have a base for a decent meal. Add: canned veggies, canned beans, steamed/frozen veggies, and/or egg. Microwaved pasta sauce and frozen veggie sausages also work if you’re feeling like a bachelor(ette). Mike just bought a 2-cup Zojirushi ricecooker that has settings for white/mixed rice, brown rice, and quick. The brown rice comes out as tender as white, and we’ve successfully made quinoa in it as well.
Buy the paste in the refrigerated section of a local Asian grocery store, and boil the following ingredients in descending order depending on the cooking times marked on the packages, usually: water or stock, dumplings, frozen veggies or fresh (like boy choy, spinach, mushrooms), noodles (soba are quick and delicious), miso, egg (optional). Garnish with green onions and/or sesame oil.
Other noodle soups
Use stock instead of miso. Same ingredient and garnish options. Even if I end up using Ramen noodles, I still add my own veggies, and I generally use half of the soup packet mixture if I use it at all.
Start a pot of water boiling when you walk in the door!
Don’t underestimate the power of momentum. Boiling water’ll get the momentum going. You can do other things around the house while the water is boiling (set a timer if you’re apt to forget), and you can chop and figure out what to top the pasta with as it’s cooking. Canned tomatoes make a pretty quick sauce with garlic, onions, and whatever veggies you have handy, but if you need to use them, jarred pasta sauces are even quicker. Just a handful of mushrooms or a few olives will make it feel like a homemade meal…because it will be. Serve with bread or salad for extra hardiness.
Ditto with the boiling water. Add some frozen edamame or other veggies to the water before you add the noodles. Mix with a sauce of peanut butter + hoisin, crushed peanuts, and green onions. It’s delicious.
Breakfast All Day
I love breakfast. That’s why eggs is so high on this list. But if you really don’t feel like cooking, you can at least consider eating another healthy breakfast. Toast + eggs + frozen breakfast sausages. Oatmeal + sunflower seeds and raisins. Cereal + fruit. There are all sorts of other quick breakfast foods that are pretty easy to make at home: breakfast tacos, migas (eggs + salsa + tortilla chips), fritatta, pancakes (if you always turn to the boxed mix, take a look at the ingredient list–you probably have it all in your pantry already)…list can go on.
It’s my go-to dessert.
Here’s another blogger’s pep-talk to inspire your salad-making days again. The trick is to broaden your idea of what a “salad” should be.
Right now, I still rely on store-bought soups, but want to try making large batches on the weekend (esp. now that I have an immersion blender!). They are simple to reheat and easy to turn into a meal with the addition of rice or bread or a handful of veggies or cheese and crackers or…
Steam those veggies
Steaming veggies (or fish) takes a lot less time (and heat) than boiling or roasting. It’s healthier, and it’s less fuss than other cooking methods. Just set a timer if you’re apt to forget about the pot if you might, er, check your GoogleReader and then let the pot burn…like me, ahem, yeah…
Stir-fry or Fried Rice
My post. Bittman post. Not Eating Out in New York post. Lunch at Sixpoint post. Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution inspired post.
Like a stir-fry wrapped in tortillas. Plus salsa and beans. There’s another version that is fun to try: torta shell + canned refried beans + queso fresco. Quesadillas are also simpler than you would think. Heat both sides of a tortilla in a pan. Set aside. Heat another one and on its second side, sprinkle with cheese. Add beans/drained pre-cooked veggies. Sprinkle with more cheese and top with the pre-heated tortilla. Cut with pizza roller. Serve with salsa and guac.
Read cooking blogs
I think the more you read and think about food on a daily basis, the easier it becomes to incorporate cooking into your daily routine. The myths of “cooking = hard” or “cooking = time-consuming” get smashed, and it starts to become habit to start thinking “ingredients in fridge = homemade meal.” I’m getting hungry writing this post, so I’m off to eat…something…
Funny thing is, this list of “quick eats” makes up a large portion of my meals. It says something about my relationship with cooking: quick, easy, takes advantage of ingredients I have on hand rather than buying ingredients to make a certain recipe, flexible guidelines and adaptable techniques rather than to-the-number recipes. I’m cool with that!